Extraordinary Stories

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Saturday, July 2, 2016

The "Dutch Wonderland Monorail" Story

Lancaster County's first Monorail system at Dutch Wonderland.
It was an ordinary day. Carol looked at me and said, "You know you're going to have to pay to take this photo- graph. That sign says everyone must pay for parking." We had just entered one of America's premier children's amusement parks, Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, PA, so I could take a photograph of their iconic monorail for a story I wanted to write.
One of the original three trains.
"Nah, I'll just ask if I can take a photo and be on my way. I'll bet they'll let me." So I pulled up to the parking attendant and was greeted by this neat guy with a long white beard and a smile just about as wide. Told him all I wanted to do was take a photo for  my blog and if I could just drive through, take it, and be on my way.
Another one of the original trains.
He said I could continue on my way, but I'd have to exit and go across the street from Dutch Wonderland to get my photo.  "Just follow the exit signs in front of you to do that," he said. Thanked him and followed the road he told me to follow. Well, it took me right past the terminal for the monorail, so I pulled into a parking spot, waited and got the exact photo I needed. "You're lucky they don't have security guards patrolling the parking lot," Carol told me when I got back in the car.  
1987 saw two of the original
three trains destroyed by fire.
Wasn't long ago that I saw a photo of the original monorail that was opened to the public on May 29, 1966, three years after Earl Clarke founded the 14-acre amusement park. The park had grown to 48 acres with the addition of a variety of children's rides as well as a log flume, big slide, two wooden roller coasters and a few water rides. In 2001 Hershey Entertainment & Resorts purchased the park to go along with their large amusement park in Hershey, Pennsylvania. In 2013 the park celebrated its 50th anniversary. To me, one of the star performers at the park, which Carol and I have visited many times with our three children and now with our three grandchildren, is the Monorail.  
A sponsor for this newer train had a design painted on it.
The original monorail cars looked like beverage cans laid on end and connected together with a groove cut into the bottom to glide over the overhead rail. There were three sets of cars that ran on the monorail; one each in red, white and blue colors.  In 1987 the nearby fire company was called to the park because of a fire which destroyed the red and white trains.  
The new train travels through Dutch Wonderland.
Today there are two newer trains that are much taller and more boxy than the older trains. Over the years the path of the monorail has been altered several times to accommodate for the addition of new rides to the park. I recently read that there are about 15 monorails in operation in the world today. Hard to believe that we have one in Lancaster as well as one at the nearby Hershey Park Amusement Park. Well, I got my photo without having to pay for parking and had the chance to look over the park where we spent many happy hours in the past with the kids and grandkids. And, the monorail was always part of that fun. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Dutch Wonderland recently changed hands and is now owned by Newport Beach, California-based Palace Entertainment.

The monorail train exits the main station today at Dutch Wonderland.

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